What W-4 Allowances Do You Qualify For?

check your withholdings

In 2020, the IRS redesigned Form W-4. The redesign included getting rid of allowances and personal tax exemptions. Before 2020, you could update your withholdings on Form W-4 by adjusting the number of allowances. The redesign replaced complex worksheets with more straightforward questions. As an employee, you can calculate and adjust your withholdings more easily and accurately. It’s a good idea to update your income tax withholding whenever your financial or personal situation changes. If you start a new job, get married (or divorced), have a baby, or your household income changes for any reason, the amount you owe for taxes will also change. You should adjust your income tax withholdings to avoid unexpectedly owing money to the IRS. Let’s look at how getting rid of allowances affects your withholdings. 

Why are taxes withheld from my paycheck?  

Rather than asking individuals to pay all their taxes at one time, the U.S. has a pay-as-you-go tax system. This means that anyone earning income must pay taxes throughout the year. When you start a new job, you fill out a Form W-4 that tells your employer how much income should come out of each paycheck for federal income tax.   

Learn more: All About IRS Form W-4  

What was an allowance?  

An allowance or personal tax exemption was used to reduce the amount of money you owe on your taxes. The number of allowances you took would tell your employer how much should be taken out of your paycheck for income tax. Before 2020, you were entitled to one allowance for yourself and one for a spouse if you were married. The more allowances you claimed, the more money you would take home. Conversely, fewer allowances meant less take-home pay. The redesign is intended to provide a more transparent and accurate way to calculate your withholdings.  

What has replaced allowances?  

Allowances have been replaced by a 5-step process and new Federal Income Tax Withholding Methods to determine your withholdings. This 5-step process considers dependents and tax credits you claim to calculate your withholdings. The redesigned form should make it easier to match your tax liability to your withholding amount.   

How many allowances should I take?  

You will no longer be prompted to include the number of allowances on Form W-4. Allowances have been removed from the form and replaced by a 5-step process to more accurately calculate your expected tax liability and the corresponding amount that should be withheld from your paycheck. 

How do I fill out my W-4 if I have two jobs? 

Additional income from a second job, self-employment, or side hustle can increase your tax liability. If you work more than one job at the same time, you should complete Step 2 of Form W-4 to determine the amount to have withheld from your paycheck. This calculation keeps you from withholding more money from your paychecks than necessary or not withholding enough. There are three ways to calculate your withholdings when you work two or more jobs:  

  1. You can use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to calculate your withholdings and figure out the additional amount you should have withheld – if any. The estimator will be the most accurate calculation.  
  1. Or you can use the IRS Worksheet to manually calculate your withholdings to figure out the additional amount you should have withheld, if any. The worksheet will be slightly less accurate than the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator.   
  1. If you only have two jobs with similar pay, you can check the box in Step 2–C when you complete your W-4s for each job. Checking this box on both forms will indicate to your employers to cut your tax brackets and deductions in half when calculating the amount to withhold from your paycheck. 

My spouse also works. Who should claim our allowances? 

Allowances are no longer a factor when filling out your W-4. However, if you are filing a married filing joint return, you will need to consider your spouse’s income when completing Form W-4. You and your spouse’s income determine your tax bracket and tax liability. If both of you work, then you should use Step 2 to calculate your withholdings. Having two incomes on a single return will increase your tax liability. If you require extra withholdings to cover your tax bill – completing Step 2 will help you determine the additional amount to withhold. 

If you and your spouse have similar pay – you will both check the box in Step 2 – C when completing your W-4s. Checking this box tells each employer to cut your tax brackets and deductions in half when calculating how much to deduct from your paychecks. 

If you do not have a similar pay – you should use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator or the IRS Worksheet to estimate your withholdings. This will help you to calculate your estimated tax liability and if you should take extra withholdings to cover your tax bill. 

This article was last updated on 11/23/2022. 

This article is intended to provide general information to the public and does not provide personalized tax, investment, legal, or business advice. You should seek the assistance of a professional for advice on taxes, investments, and any other financial, legal, or business matter pertinent to your individual situation.

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